We speak to many people who are very confused about Probate. Dealing with legal and financial paperwork at such an emotional time can be daunting. Even in the simplest estates there is a surprisingly large amount of correspondence with various institutions such as HM Revenue & Customs, teh Department for Work and Pensions and The Principal Probate Registry, to name just a few.
Our aim is to explain in plain English what probate is and whether it is actually required in your cirsumstances. We can then give you impartial advice on how best to proceed in your situation.
What is Probate?
Probate comes from the Latin verb 'probare' which means 'to prove'. So when someone dies their Will (state issued or otherwise) needs to be proved or probated so that property and assets can be sold or transferred. The document issued is often referred to as a Grant of Representation.
If someone dies without leaving a valid Will (intestate), the Grant of Representation document is referred to as a 'Grant of Letters of Administration' and is issued to the closest next of kin. The estate then needs to be distributed in accordance with the 'Rules of Intestacy'.
When someone dies having left a valid Will, it becomes the responsibility of the named Executor (or Executors) to administer the estate or appoint a third party to do so on their behalf, In this case the probate document is called a 'Grant of Probate' and the estate distribution must follow the terms laid out in the Will.
Contrary to popular belief the 'probate process' is no quicker with a Will rather than without one. In fact in most cases a poorly drafted Will, or one that is out of date, can cause more problems and delay than no Will at all.
Inheritance Tax is usually payable on estates worth over £325,000. However, there may be exemptions that can be applied against the chargeable estate.
It is normally not advisable to attempt to deal with an estate where Inheritance Tax is payable yourself. This is because of the complexity of the probate forms involved and the financial penalties payable if errors are made. Anyone who finds themselves in this situation should contact us for expert advice on what we can do to ensure the estate is administered legally and professionally. We are also able to advise on how the tax bill might be reduced or mitigated.
Do I need Probate?
As a general rule, anypne with assets worth over £5,000 (including any property owned) is likely to need probate in their estate. However, it depends whether assets are held in joint or sole names and also what the assets are. For example, the Post Office will only release under £5,000 without a Grant of Probate but HSBC will release up to £20,000 (as of April 2013).
In order to establish for certain whether probate will be necessary in your inidividual circumstances, please call is on our freephone number 0800 028 2837 to discuss the estate confidentially with one of our advisors. Once we have indentified whether probate is necessary, we will be able to provide impartial advice as to the options available.